After completing a sales analysis, you should have a good understanding of what’s working and not working for your sales team and your business at large. It’s now time to strategically hone-in on the weak points and create a plan to develop these areas—and set your growth targets. This is your sales plan; it’s one part strategy, one part execution, and is a vital roadmap to your goals.
In other words, if the sales analysis is the What, then the sales plan is the How. Without it, you might as well be driving blind.
The importance of sales planning
“Companies looking for a clear path to transform their results often miss the planning part,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO. “When you don't have a plan, you're not making good strategic decisions, from not knowing where to focus your team to what type of salesperson to hire.”
With a sales plan, you have clarity. It’s the fast-track to growth.
Planning for sales success: the critical elements of a sales plan
There are nine core elements to a successful sales plan. Below we touch on three of the most important to consider.
A clear set of numbers and how to get there
A good sales plan should map where your current revenue is coming from and what future channels to strategically target in order to reach your growth goals.
“We get them to plan out how much revenue is coming from existing business, how much revenue could come from selling new products or services to existing business, and the shortfall between this and their growth goals,” says Paul. “That extra revenue needs to come from somewhere, so it’s got to come from new business.”
However: “A sales plan with just numbers isn't a plan, you need to know how you're going to get there, who is going to execute it, when that's going to happen and whether you have the right team to do it.”
If you’ve completed a sales analysis, you should already have a good idea of your team’s capabilities and whether you have the people you need to carry out your strategic goals.
A profile of your ideal target market
The key component of a sales plan is to strategically identify the way(s) to reach your goals as fast as possible. In other words, maximising your return on time (ROT). The first step to achieving this is to identify your target market.
“A lot of salespeople waste a lot of time having the wrong conversations with the wrong people,” says Paul. “Part of the planning should focus on getting salespeople to have the right conversations with the right people so you get a better return on time.”
A good place to start is with your current customers. Which ones generate the most profit for the least amount of effort and time? What industries are they in? What type of business are they? Who inside that business do you need to speak to?
From there you can flesh out who your ideal customer is. Make sure you cover these three key areas:
- Geographic: where are they located, are they local or further afield?
- Demographic: what is their gender, how old are they, what industry do they work in and in what role?
- Psyche: what is the mindset of your top clients? Are they growth minded, forward thinking, willing to pay, and willing execute your advice? Do they value what you do?
“Clients outside of this Photograph tend not to be good clients,” says Paul.
With a firm idea of who your ideal customer is, you’ll have a better understanding of how to find, attract and sell to them.
Strategic messaging with cut through
With your target market identified, your sales plan should also include the strategic messaging—your positioning statement and unique value proposition—to make customers want to buy from you, and not your competition.
“Not a lot of sales managers actually know how to shape up strategic messaging,” says Paul. “And your strategic messaging needs to be powerful from the start—you’ve only got about 10 seconds to make an impression.
“If you don't have a really good soundbite, you're just going to sound like everyone else that's prospecting those clients.”
3 tips to execute your sales plan
1. Get everyone involved
Remember, those who plan the fight won’t fight the plan.
“One of the biggest mistakes we see is sales managers not involving their team,” says Paul. “If you bestow a plan on your salespeople without buy in, they'll probably push back saying “that’s unrealistic, we can’t get there”.”
“However, if you involve them and facilitate individual plans that cascade upwards to an overarching plan, they’ll buy into it. They’ll take ownership of it and you can hold them accountable because they’ve helped develop it.”
2. Have clear objectives
It’s much harder to reach a goal if you don’t know what it is. Having clear objectives means you and your team can make good strategic decisions that contribute towards your sales growth goals.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Ensuring your strategy is communicated across your business puts everyone on the same page. It will also prevent people channelling their efforts into the wrong objective, such as finding new clients instead of upselling to existing ones.